Tag Archives: In The Hills and Hollows

An Open Letter to W.Va. Governor Justice and DEP Secretary Caperton

On behalf of all West Virginians, I challenge you to serve the people, not your cronies in the fossil fuel industry

By S. Tom Bond

 Note: I have penned the following Open Letter to Governor Jim Justice and Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Austin Caperton; I encourage you to do the same or join us in signing this by contacting the Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance at MLPAWV@gmail.com or use the contact page. 

Editor’s note: Both Justice and Caperton have long careers as energy company executives and have records’ – including recent firings at WV DEP – that the state’s environmental groups find counter to the DEP mission as does the Charleston Gazette-Mail. To get a sense of how things operate in Charleston, read this admission by former DEP Secretary Randy Huffman that the DEP is compromised by crony capitalism.

Tom bond

Lewis County Farmer Tom Bond tells his story in the Documentary Film ‘In the Hills and Hollows’ by Keely Kernan

Dear Governor Justice and Secretary Caperton:

How is the air down there in Charleston?  Still clean? Do you plan to move out into the country near some of the new Marcellus drilling industry? Maybe near a compressor station with eleven of those big engines, roaring and belching 24 hours a day?


Jim Justice

Or perhaps near a well pad where there is 24 hour light and noise and chemicals and diesel smoke with lots of PM-2.5 coming out the exhaust. Particulate matter 2.5 microns or less is now known as a cause of Alzheimer’s-like effects, you know. Going to bring along your grandchildren and your Mom along? Families like that live out here, and the young and the old are particularly susceptible to toxic chemicals, smoke, fumes, and dust.

Maybe you are like the famous story on Rex Tillerson, who has inflicted that kind of misery on many thousands of people. Then he complained when a water tower to enable fracking was erected in sight of his own piece of earth.

Do you think those who drink water without the taste of chlorine shouldn’t complain when their well is poisoned with a complex mixture of water slickers, detergents, and anti-oxidants, antibacterial compounds, and God-only-knows what else? Maybe they deserve car-busting roads and interminable delays when they use public roads too?

I can see you demurring all the way from here. I think that you are like Rex Tillerson, the ultimate not-in-my-back-yard guy!


Austin Caperton

So you are going to govern the state for all the people.  For all the people of West Virginia – like John J. Cornwell was governing West Virginia for all the people, including the miners, at the time of the battle of Matewan? Oh yes! Those corporations provided good living for officers and investors, but not miners. It’s been like that since West Virginia was established. Wealth carried off, mostly north and east, but occasionally to build a motel in Florida.

So I’m being a little hard on you. You are just doing it to bring jobs, jobs, jobs, you say?  You do realize gas and oil extraction are capital intensive and labor weak, don’t you? That once the drilling is done by those fellows brought in from elsewhere, they will go away and leave few permanent jobs? You certainly know several companies are developing automated drilling, so drilling labor will go the way of coal labor, too.

Oh yes! Obama killed coal the fable says. You really know better than that, don’t you? Coal companies, going to more mechanization, especially long wall and surface mining that can use huge equipment, killed coal jobs. That Obama fable was a tool, using prejudice and diversion of the truth, to affect voters who were slow to catch on.

What moral code do you have that allows collateral damage to rural residents in peacetime to profit private industry? Forget for the moment all the externalized costs, the true cost of the extraction, the damage to other industries, global warming, destruction of surface value for farming and timber, recreation and hunting.  What justifies forest destruction, land disturbances, public annoyances, and public health for fossil fuel extraction? Especially when last year 39 percent of new electrical capacity was solar and 29 percent was wind power.  (Coal has been showing a decrease for the last two years.)  There is no CO2 from the renewable resources!


West Virginia residents stand in solidarity against fracking at the first “Hands Across Our Land” fracking protest iin 2015. Photo courtesy of Doddridge County Watershed Association

How do you decide people are unworthy of protection? Simply because of rural residence? Those who can’t afford to move elsewhere, or too attached to the family plot?

Hey guys, people out here are probably more astute than you think. Some of us don’t think very far ahead, and few are articulate, but, given time, it all becomes too clear.

West Virginia has the highest rate at losing population in the nation.  We have the lowest ratio of employment to employable people in the nation. College kids have been heading for the door, and so are a lot of high school grads.

Is corrupting the environment and allowing the wealth of our state to be carted off by favored industries your best game? That is the past, present (and future?) of Almost Heaven! We country folks keep hoping for better!

S. Thomas Bond is an eighth generation West Virginian writing from his farm in Jane Lew, W.Va. He is a farmer and retired chemistry professor. He is interviewed in Keely Kernan’s Documentary Film, “In the Hills and Hollows,” which is about the impacts of the fossil fuel industry in West Virginia. 

Postscript: Please note the irony of the slide show of beautiful West Virginia scenery on the governor’s website. Let’s not let him have a pass on using the state’s natural beauty to disguise the extreme damage he has done to the people, environment and legal system of West Virginia. – M.B.

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Filmmaker Finds Compelling Story in Her Own ‘Backyard’

Impact of fracking the focus of Keely Kernan’s latest work

By Michael M. Barrick

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. – Award-winning filmmaker Keely Kernan has already demonstrated that she is willing to travel anywhere to produce work that enlightens people about social and environmental topics. Kernan, 30, a native of the Appalachian Mountains of south-central Pennsylvania, has traveled to West Africa, Haiti and Central America for film projects. Now, however, Kernan, working from this historic hamlet in West Virginia’s eastern panhandle, is staying much closer to home, but still on a topic of significant social and environmental importance.

Keely Kernan at work

Keely Kernan at work

Kernan is covering the impacts of fracking upon people and the communities in which they live in a feature film titled “In the Hills and Hollows.” She began production in May of 2014 and has spent hundreds of hours researching and connecting with communities throughout West Virginia, and shooting the film. Currently, 60 percent of the film has been shot. She is in the process of conducting a Kickstarter campaign to secure funding needed to continue shooting and to contract post-production team members. That campaign ends on June 20, which is also the 152nd anniversary of West Virginia’s admittance into the Union as a state. (Additional information about the Kickstarter campaign can be found below).

Recently, Kernan found herself in opposite corners of the state. She visited Wetzel County to get an up-close look at one of the most heavily fracked counties in the Mountain State. Located in the northwestern portion of the state, it borders Ohio and Pennsylvania. She also went to Monroe County, located in the southeastern corner of the state; there she covered the impact of the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 300-mile 42” pipeline that would originate in Wetzel County and cross into Virginia from Monroe County. There, residents are fighting energy companies attempting to get approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to build the pipeline because approval will mean the companies can use eminent domain to cross private property to build the pipeline.Film Photo

Wherever she goes, Kernan seeks out those people whose stories are representative of the impacts of the state’s reliance upon a fossil fuel mono-economy. She explains, “I decided to make this documentary after spending a significant amount of time meeting with residents throughout West Virginia affected by the natural gas boom. What makes this story unique is that in many ways this is a repeat of history. We have seen the legacy of the boom and bust coal industry, the poisoning of our waterways, and wealth and resources leaving the state.”

Allen Johnson with Christians for the Mountains commented upon Kernan’s work. “I have seen two of Keely’s presentations as well as watched her filming on site. Keely’s work is driven by her keen heart of compassion and zeal for justice, coupled with high quality professional skill. Her filming will move hearts and minds to correct abuses to people and land and toward a much-needed shift of policy and practice to build a bright future for West Virginia.”

Kernan has traveled to cover the experiences of Annie and John Seay, who left their home last summer to get away from the fracking industry which surrounded their home. She spent countless days and hours with Myra Bonhage-Hale, a Lewis County lavender farmer who is also moving away from the farm she has owned for 35 years because of the impact the fracking industry is having close to her 110-acre farm. Bonhage-Hale is returning to her native Maryland. Kernan has captured the stories of residents in Doddridge County, Tyler County, Harrison County and many others. Kernan explained why she has traveled so extensively and intensively, spending hours with many of her subjects. “Ultimately, I decided to make this film to help share the stories of residents who live here, at ground zero of today’s energy, and to help promote a very important conversation about what type of future we want to have as citizens.”

Other journalists covering the topic, as well as environmental activists across the state, will cross paths with Kernan repeatedly. She has been at an industry-sponsored meeting and Jackson’s Mill last summer, a Town Hall community meeting in the tiny village of Ireland sponsored by two environmental nonprofits on a snowy and frigid Saturday in February, and a conference in Charleston where she spoke on the role of filmmaking in telling the story of preservationist efforts in Appalachia. She has sat with dozens of individuals, spent times at their homes, and seen citizens in numerous community meetings mobilize to challenge the energy industry.

Kernan shared, “While on this journey I have met many incredible people and it has been a privilege getting to know all of them. Residents have invested just as much in the film as I have invested in helping to tell their stories. They have spent hours showing me their communities, and have often times offered me a place to stay while organizing a visit in very rural parts of West Virginia. Their time and support has made this film possible.”

To learn more about the Kickstarter campaign please visit:

To read related articles about “In the Hills and Hollows,” as well as view some brief clips from the film, visit:
Kickstarter Campaign Launched for West Virginia-Based Feature Film
Breaking Ground, Breaking Hearts
Health and Well-Being of Residents Being Subordinated to Fracking Industry

© Appalachian Preservation Project, LLC, 2015. The Appalachian Chronicle is a publication of the Appalachian Preservation Project. The Appalachian Preservation Project is a social enterprise committed to preserving and protecting Appalachia. If you wish to support our work, please consider becoming a member.

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Health and Well-Being of Residents Being Subordinated to Fracking Industry

A West Virginian tells of the assault upon her way of life

By Michael M. Barrick

WEST UNION, W.Va. – For more than a century, since the days of the logging industry and the beginning of coal mining, hardy West Virginia workers knew they were risking their lives every time they set foot on a steep mountainside to cut down a tree or work a longwall in the damp underground.

Then, the 1972 Buffalo Creek disaster made it clear that workers were not the only ones being asked to risk their lives for the fossil fuel extraction industry – average citizens were. That is the history of West Virginia; sadly, it is also the present.

Fracking has ruined the lives and livelihoods of countless West Virginians. The dangers from fracking are well-documented. In West Virginia, they are simply being ignored – except by a few people determined to have their story told.

One such West Virginian is Tina Del Prete. She told her story to filmmaker Keely Kernan, who is presently filming her feature film about fracking, “In the Hills and Hollows.” Keely recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help finance the cost of production of the film.

Del Prete has lived on her 30-acre farm for 37 years. Fracking started in her area about five or six years ago. “The first thing we noticed was the destruction and the traffic,” said Del Prete. “The destruction was from clear cutting for roads, well pads, compressor stations, metering stations, pipelines, and rights-of-way.”

She admitted she was nervous about talking to Kernan on camera, but said, “I did it so people would know what’s going on.” She continued, “I want people to know how destructive it is to the environment, to the community it’s in, and to the people. The cumulative effect impacts everyone in this county.” While some are encouraged by a slowdown in the industry because of a drop in oil prices, Del Prete, offered, “I don’t think it’s over by a long shot.”

Help tell the story
After listening to Tina tell her story, if you want to help spread her story so that the fossil-fuel mono-economy will not take precedence over the lives of West Virginians and all of those impacted by fracking, please visit the website below to contribute to the Kickstarter campaign. By giving, you will help ensure that the Tina’s story and the accounts of so many others are heard – and heeded.

To learn more about the Kickstarter campaign please visit:

About Keely Kernan
Keely Kernan is an award winning filmmaker and photographer. Her work is dedicated to producing media that enlightens people about relevant social and environmental topics.  As a storyteller she is driven by a desire to connect the viewer and inspire conversations that will influence and initiate reform.

© Appalachian Preservation Project, LLC 2015. The Appalachian Chronicle is a publication of the Appalachian Preservation Project.

Breaking Ground, Breaking Hearts

Story of Myra Bonhage-Hale reveals that fracking is destructive beyond what we can see

By Michael M. Barrick

ALUM BRIDGE, W.Va. – Myra Bonhage-Hale was getting hugs from people short, tall, young and old on her farm in Lewis County at her final Lavender Fair on May 9. Situated at the end of a three-mile gravel road connecting with U.S. Rt. 33 about halfway between Weston and Glenville, the remote location could not keep her admirers away. The hugs were part of the collective, extended community “goodbye” to Bonhage-Hale as she leaves the farm she has owned for 35 years to move back to her native Maryland.

At 80, Hale has made countless friends in the Mountain State. Indeed, as she was receiving yet another hug in her kitchen, she said simply, with tears in the corner of her eyes, “I’ve got so many friends.” Yet, she is moving out of the West Virginia hollow she loves so much because of the adverse impacts of the fracking industry.

The dozens of visitors gathering in this secluded hollow expressed their sadness at her departure, but assured her they understood. Nevertheless, conversations among small groups gathered under shade trees inevitably turned to the sadness people held in their hearts – not only for Myra, but also her family, her friends and, indeed, the entire state of West Virginia.

Bonhage-Hale did not make her decision in haste. At a meeting of the Lewis County Commission last Oct. 6, she implored commissioners to act upon their duty to protect the citizens and environment of the county. She said, “When I came to West Virginia as a single parent to the abandoned farm now known as La Paix, I thought of it as ‘Almost Heaven.’” Later, as she concluded her remarks, she said, “As I leave West Virginia, with my 34 years of hard work and love and joy and friendship at La Paix behind me, I think of West Virginia as ‘Almost Hell.’ La Paix is for sale. La Paix means peace. I plan to take it with me. The powers that be will not let me keep it here.” Indeed, sensing that her remarks were falling on deaf ears, she turned from the podium and with a quivering voice said to her son, “I need to get out of here.” While she was talking about the commission meeting room, her words were spoken with such determination that one sensed they had a double meaning. She was alluding, as well, it seemed, to West Virginia.

As word spread over the past several months that Bonhage-Hale was indeed moving, several of her friends asked that she have one more Lavender Fair before leaving. She agreed. She and her guests were greeted with a lovely West Virginia spring day. As each entered the farm, they were welcomed by a sign that reminded them why this hollow is so special – sacred even. The sign includes the name given the farm by Bonhage-Hale, “La Paix,” which is French for “peace.” The long banner includes the same greeting in several languages.

Based on the outpouring of love shown her this day, Bonhage-Hale has succeeded in living out the words that greet each of her visitors. While the steep slopes surrounding her farm house seemingly welcome and embrace the visitor, it is the joyful nature of Bonhage-Hale that creates the atmosphere. It is common for her to use the peace sign as a greeting and close out conversations and emails with the simple word, “Joy!”

It is that nature that seemed to overwhelm one visitor as she watched a screening of an extended trailer of Keely’s film. It includes a segment of Bonhage-Hale on her farm, alluding to the lack of respect by the extraction industry for people and the earth. After watching it, the person had to excuse herself. After composing herself, she explained, “This is so wrong. This is such a beautiful place. Myra is so sweet. She has always opened her home to us. This festival has brought many people together. The energy industry does not care about people. It does not care about land. It just cares about profit, no matter who it hurts. It breaks my heart.”

Later, when Bonhage-Hale was sitting in her kitchen, now quiet after most of the guests had left, she shared some departing thoughts about La Paix. Though the Lavender Fair was held only about 10 years of the 35 that she lived on the farm, Bonhage-Hale noted that it had been reflective of the purpose of La Paix. “The Lavender Fair is a culmination of research, friends, groups, apprentices and gardens into one great spiritual, energetic whole. This place has such magnificent energy because of the energy we’ve put into it. Also, what the earth puts into it. It works both ways.”

Pausing to think back over the 35 years, Bonhage-Hale offered, “Everyone that was here was happy. A lot of things go into the wholeness of La Paix. We’ve had wonderful apprentices, wonderful help and wonderful volunteers. People who come here appreciate the beauty of the land, the beauty of West Virginia.”

However, she concluded, “I don’t think West Virginia is being honored now by the powers that be. I’m not leaving West Virginia. It left me.”

To learn more about the Kickstarter campaign (including paintings donated by Myra Bonhage-Hale as rewards, please visit):

To view the trailer of Myra Bonhage-Hale from “In the Hills and Hollows,” please visit:
Meet Myra Bonhage-Hale

About Keely Kernan
Keely Kernan is an award winning filmmaker and photographer. Her work is dedicated to producing media that enlightens people about relevant social and environmental topics. As a storyteller she is driven by a desire to connect the viewer and inspire conversations that will influence and initiate reform.

© Appalachian Preservation Project, LLC 2015. The Appalachian Chronicle is a publication of the Appalachian Preservation Project.